This sonnet is one of metamorphosis, or perhaps alchemy. The poet’s eye is in his mind and causes him to shape everything he sees in the natural world around him into an image of the beloved (here formally addressed as ‘you’). It’s the same sentiment echoed by countless popular songs through the ages. I’m reminded most of all of Ray Noble’s ‘The Very Thought of You’ which includes the lines: ‘I see your face in every flower / Your eyes in stars above: / It’s just the thought of you, / The very thought of you, my love.’ You might like to listen to the great Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘The Very Thought of You’ by clicking here. But perhaps read and listen to Shakespeare’s sonnet first… And listen to Sonnet 113 being sung by its reader, too (by clicking here).
Since I left you mine eye is in my mind,
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus makes mine eye untrue.
Click on the post below to hear Sonnet 113 read by Katherine Alexander, a student on the Shakespeare and Creativity course at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. And she’s also singing her own composition of it which you can here by clicking here.
You might like to visit a similar Shakespeare for Advent project led by students at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.